Jesus' favorite teaching device - Mark 4:2

Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on Mark 4:2-25

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Jesus' favorite teaching device - Mark 4:2

The word that is translated parables was used to denote a wide range of figures of speech, from short sayings to long stories. The parable seems to have been Jesus' favorite teaching device.

Results were very different - Mark 4:3-8

Ancient Palestine was one of the few places where farmers first scattered their seed and then plowed the earth. The result was that the seed fell on different kinds of soil and that's why the results were often very different.

Listen - Mark 4:9

Jesus called on all those who heard the parable to pay close attention. It was a serious warning not to ignore his teaching. Notice that in verse 3 he began the parable with the word, Listen. Just like this warning at the end it stressed the importance of what Jesus was saying.

Even this group did not understand - Mark 4:10

Verse 10 describes a time that was probably very shortly after Jesus had taught the large crowd from the boat (4:1). It involved the twelve disciples plus a larger group of followers who seem to be as genuinely committed to him as the twelve. Even this group did not understand Jesus' teaching in the parable.

Mystery - Mark 4:11

In this context the mystery of the kingdom of God was that the kingdom was powerfully present in the preaching and miracles of Jesus the Messiah. But it was present in such an unexpected form that many people missed it altogether.

Hard-heartedness of the Israelites - Mark 4:12

Jesus quoted Isaiah 6:9, 10 to explain why he told parables. In their historical setting in Isaiah those verses were a condemnation of the hard-heartedness of the Israelites of Isaiah's day. Jesus told his disciples that he used parables because they both revealed and concealed truth at the same time. He used them to obscure the truth before the eyes of those who had hardened their hearts to the things of God and refused to believe. (See note on 3:29. Note also Matt. 7:6; Acts 18:5, 6.)

The word that Jesus sowed - Mark 4:13-20

Jesus wanted his disciples to understand the parable so he explained it to them. In his preaching Jesus had sowed the word of the gospel of the kingdom of God. Satan takes away the word that Jesus sowed. Tribulation persecution … the cares of the world … the deceitfulness of riches were all expressions that would have been meaningful to the suffering Christians in Rome who first received this Gospel. See WLC 195.

Jesus' kingdom will prosper. - Mark 4:20

In spite of all the opposition, Jesus' kingdom will prosper. Things may look hopeless at times; but Jesus promised that his word would produce much good fruit. There may be those who call Jesus crazy or satanic, but there are also the true members of the family of God.

Jesus will make everything clear. - Mark 4:21-22

Jesus, the Messiah, is the lamp. His identity will not always be hidden. He will not always appear to be a strange kind of messiah. A day is coming when he will be clearly seen. He will then make everything clear and obvious to everyone.

Pay attention - Mark 4:23-25

Much as he did in verse 9 Jesus urged his disciples to pay attention because if they understood and received the blessings of God, God would give them even greater understanding and blessing. Properly responding to God's revelation is the path to ever greater understanding of God's will and God's ways. (Cf. Eph. 5:8-10.)

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